Alhaji Abdulfatai Akinbade is the Chairman of Golden Tulip Hotel, Ibadan, former Secretary to Osun State Government and one-time Chairman of Osun State chapter of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). He speaks on why he wants to be the governor of Osun State among other issues.
Can you share with us your experience while growing up?
Well, I thank God for my life because when I finished Modern School, in those days, when you are unable to be through Modern School, they will take you to Lagos to do house help job, but, in my own case, I was lucky to have completed Modern School and, at that time, you are already somebody to reckon with. So, I decided to look for factory job.
One thing I have noticed is that people do underrate me. In those days, you don’t just start to hawk in the Molue, you must have a master who was already known; not a conductor this time, but a senior hawker. At that time, the traffic used to be so much in Lagos. Carter bridge had not been expanded then,there was always congestion on bridge between Ido and Idumota and also Obalende, Tinubu and Ijeh.
The senior hawker will enter the Molue from the front door, I will enter from the back as an apprentice and I began to learn. But my tribal marks exposed me to the people that I was new in Lagos and on the job. Don’t forget that it was the desire to have three Pounds to pay at the factory gate that made me to look for the hawking job, but, eventually, I discovered that there was more money in hawking than the factory job.
In the factory, they were paying, I think, one naira per day and my boss then loved me so much because anytime I went out with him, he would sell so much and after he must have given me transport money, he will still give me one or two naira depending. In those days, we used to eat yellow eba at Ebuto Ero and I was saving so much money from the hawking in Molue because I always managed not to pay for transportation. I remember that by the end of the first month when I showed my friend who wanted to help me to get the factory job how much I had saved from hawking drugs inside Molue, he said “Fatai, don’t border to look for the factory job again because those of us doing the factory job normally pay for transport and other things.”
And because my boss then loved me so much, by the end of the second month, he asked me to start being the one to announce it. My boss was from the old Bendel (Edo) and he had a funny way of advertising the drugs because he could not speak Yoruba fluently. So, each time he asked me to do the advertising, I spoke exactly like him and people were just wondering if I could not speak Yoruba and it was a good experience.
Now that you are contesting to be the next governor of Osun State come 2014, how do you see your chances?
I look at myself as someone who can easily win election anytime because I have lived all my political life in Osun. I have served in different capacities. I was not too lucky to be a local government chairman because I contested and lost. But since then, I have been in and out of government and, today, ask anybody in the state, nobody will tell you that this is what Alhaji has done to circumvent due process. I have never taken bribe from anybody and I have never bargained for anything with anybody and, to those that passed through me or I have passed through, we have always been together.
I have been in the corridor of government for long and I’m interested in the affairs of the state. I led the PDP in Osun State when we had only one House of Assembly member; incidentally, that member came from my constituency. That was in 1999 and, when I became the Chairman in 2000 or so, I sat down and I started looking for a way out and God assisted me. I tell people not to steal because it is not what you steal that will make you anything in life, but only what God wants you to be. I cannot even say this is where I made money to achieve what I have been able to achieve today. I just found out that God is blessing me.
Today, I’m happy with my governor. Some people don’t believe we can even greet again, but I told them that the fact that you have your own interest does not mean we cannot be together tomorrow. You see, it depends on the way you chose because if you want to hustle and make it, you may, but if you really want to stay with God and be straight forward, you will make it. It is the easiest thing to do in life. To make money is the easiest if you are faithful.
Your hotel is a beauty to behold. What informed the citing in Ibadan and what are the chances of its survival?
I believe so much in God and God that has done it up till this level will make it to succeed. There is no secret there because the architecture is something you can access and, like I used to tell people, most politicians, when they acquire ill-gotten wealth, you see them taking it to Europe and other places and, before you know it, they lose the money. I started building this hotel when I was not in government. I was in government for four or five years as Commissioner for Works, and I make bold to say I never put one block on another. My house in Ogbagba was completed and commissioned in 1988.
The one in Ibadan where I was living before I became Commissioner was completed in 1991 and, during that period, what I did was to fence my only house in Ogbagba and the fence was not even plastered. That was only what I did for four and a half year. I bought this place in 1994. Though I was a Commissioner then, I bought it because I had been planning for it since 1991 when I was working in Exide. The place was owned by one Justice Omoebo from Edo or Delta State when Western Region was in place. I could not do anything on it until when we lost election because I contested the governorship election in Osun State along with Dr Olu Alabi in 1999.
When we lost, I went to Abuja to start looking for contracts and when after six months I discovered that nothing was coming, I decided to start the project because I was based in Ibadan. When I got another job from Exide, I said the time was ripe to start the project. We started with the design and it was actually the third design that we used and I started it when I was not even in government. After starting it, I became a party chairman in Osun and by the time I became the Secretary to the State Government, the place had already reached roofing level. I asked my governor, do I stop this thing? He said I should go ahead because this was where we normally had our party meeting. On sustainability I want to believe Ibadan deserves this kind of hotel.
Ibadan is the largest city in West Africa and the capital of the Western Region; if it is only now that we are having a five-star like hotel, that is too bad for us. It is not that people don’t have money to do it but just that many are running away and I want to say that the market is huge anywhere in Nigeria. Go to China, any village in that country, you will see a five-star hotel. When you talk about Ibadan, we have a huge market for businesses to thrive. For instance, about a month or two ago, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar came to Ibadan to deliver a lecture at University of Ibadan and wanted to spend the night and could not find anywhere to stay, but when he learnt that Golden Tulip had been commissioned and he knows me very well, he came two days ago before the programme and left after. If this place was not ok for him, he would not have stayed here.